With Democrats and Republicans said to be negotiating a new stimulus package but still appearing at an impasse, many are wondering whether a measure like stimulus checks will be tacked onto the bill to avoid a government shutdown.
The HEROES Act, which originally cost $3.4 trillion and was updated to cost $2.2 trillion, has been on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk since the Democrat-controlled House passed the bill in May. McConnell’s “skinny bill” that would cost only $500 billion and was criticized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as not providing sufficient aid was blocked by Senate Democrats months ago. This price tag remains one of several points of contention between the two sides on a stimulus package. You can read more about the bills being negotiated here.
President-elect Joe Biden has pushed strongly for Congress to compromise and pass a coronavirus relief package — he has also specifically advocated for passage of the HEROES Act. During a speech on Monday, Biden said, “Right now, Congress should come together and pass a COVID relief package like The Heroes Act that the House passed six months ago.”
With the deadline of a December 11 government shutdown looming, some are hoping coronavirus relief measures will wiggle their way into a bill to keep the government funded and functioning.
Here’s whether this could actually be done and where stimulus package negotiations stand.
Could Coronavirus Relief Be Included in a Government Appropriations Bill?
Government shutdowns occur when the federal budget for the next fiscal year fails to be approved by a set date and all nonessential government functions are halted.
They are typically avoided with an “omnibus” bill, which is a term used to describe how Congress can pass multiple bills with one vote. Therefore, it is conceivable that one or several of the needs outlined in potential stimulus packages — such as stimulus checks, an extension of the eviction moratorium, more coronavirus testing and tracing aid, etc. — could be included as part of the next big omnibus bill.
Some senators appear ready to support a measure like this.
Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic senator from Maryland, said that he would want emergency COVID-19 relief to be part of a bill to avoid a government shutdown, news station WWLP reported. “I think the way forward here is to attach a negotiated emergency COVID-19 relief bill to the bill that we need to pass to keep the government operating,” he said.
The Democratic senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, agreed. “I’m open to any option that would get relief to folks in Connecticut as soon as possible,” he said. “That includes attaching some COVID spending, like the extension of unemployment benefits, to the budget or to the continuing resolution.”
According to The Washington Post, however, both sides appear to be conducting coronavirus relief and omnibus packages separately.
Shelby & Pelosi Has Expressed Optimism on Resolving a Government Shutdown Quickly
According to The Washington Post, Pelosi said that she believes Republicans and Democrats are on a path to set spending levels for 12 important funding bills for federal agencies and pass them all in an omnibus package. “We will pass an omnibus … We are on a good path to do that,” she said.
Republican Senator Richard C. Shelby, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee and has been very outspoken about his opposition to a big stimulus package, also showed optimism that the government will not fail to meet its deadline, telling The Post, “We’re still negotiating them. We’re getting close on all of it. We’re not there yet.”
Stimulus talks appear to be in the same place, even as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reported that he reached a “breakthrough” with McConnell. According to what CNBC reported, Schumer said, “Last night, they’ve agreed to sit down and the staffs are going to sit down today or tomorrow to try to begin to see if we can get a real good Covid relief bill. So there’s been a little bit of a breakthrough in that McConnell’s folks are finally sitting down and talking to us.”
That would represent an improvement over two days ago, when McConnell called the Democrats’ push for the HEROES Act “unserious” in a tweet and accused them of including provisions to enrich wealthy Democrats.